Saturday, May 25, 2013

Does He hear me?

I find great comfort in the God breathed words of King David in the Book of Psalms. I feel like he "gets" me, and I know I'm not the only one. In those precious chapters, you see a God-fearing man struggle with his sin, you see him passionately pursue his Maker, you see him fight for holiness, you see him wrestle with loneliness, depression, fear, and doubt, and you see him in ecstatic joy.

I read those words and I'm comforted. I'm comforted because I know I'm not alone and I get to see the progression of a man's sanctification and the Lord's faithfulness to him. I'm comforted because I see the might, sovereignty, and love of God as He graciously handles David.

Sometimes I doubt the Lord hears me. If we're honest, we all do. There are nights that are just so hard; I pray and He doesn't answer. I cry and no one holds me. I ache and the pain doesn't go away. When I allow myself to sink into the pit of that pain, I'm left in this utter dark loneliness. And it's not fun. Just tonight I was talking to the Lord and just cried asking Him why He wasn't listening to a specific prayer of mine. I confessed that I felt like my words fell on deaf ears. It's nights like I had earlier tonight and like I've had in the past, I refer to as "dark nights of the soul." We all have them. David had them over and over in the Psalms. But God never left him alone in that, and He never leaves us alone.

His kindness leads me to repentance...and as His daughter, it doesn't take Him long to sweetly speak to me and lovingly remind me of His promises, that never waver or fade- regardless of my circumstances and regardless of my "feelings" (which we're told in Jeremiah are deceptive). He is faithful. I have no right to question Him or doubt Him, yet He hears me and comforts me. He tenderly speaks to me, holds my tears, and listens to my deepest pains and greatest fears. He confronts my sin and pushes me to holiness.

Tonight He reminded me of Psalm 130. We see this beautiful progression of the psalmist brokenness over sin, his confession of that sin, his hope found in God amidst his sin, and his assurance of who God is and the work that He does.

Be comforted. He hears you.

Out of the depths I cry to You, O LORD! O Lord, hear my voice! Let Your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy! If You, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with You there is forgiveness, that You may be feared. I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in His word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchman for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning. O Israel, hope in the LORD! For with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with Him is p

Friday, May 17, 2013

Farther Along...

I just got finished watching the series finale of The Office. And I wept.

I literally sat there bawling like a baby. It was the end of a 9 season long era. As I sat there, I realized these tears- they go so much deeper than a silly show ending. That show is a fabricated view of reality, but something about it strikes the depths of my soul. At the core and foundation of who we are - image bearers of the King of Kings - we are created to worship. We are created to give all of who we are to something- to be a part of something great and grand. We are created to drink deeply of life, to know joy, to walk in love, to be known, to experience intimacy, to be invested in the lives and stories of others. 

The problem with all of this is sin. Sin came into the world in Genesis 3 and we see the order and beauty of creation destroyed. Since then, our world has been fractured with misplaced identity, an incorrect view of joy, unbalanced hope, unfulfilling "fulfillment", temporary sustainment, etc... Instead of finding our worth and value in our Creator, and who we are in Him (His image bearers), we look everywhere else.

So you have The Office. You watch these men and women grow in relationship, make memories, live see marriage, divorce, children, retirement, laughter, inside jokes, the beauty of normalcy. You see this community and this depth and to the core of who you are you scream "I WANT THAT!" We were created for that- but, in our broken state, we have an incorrect and misplaced view of what that is. 

We were created to experience that through intimacy with Christ.

2 Corinthians 5 talks about this incredible invitation that Christ extends to us, as His disciples. From the beginning of creation to the return of Christ, there is a magnificent story unfolding. The story of redemption and all things being made new. As believers, we have experienced that newness partially. We are saved from the depths of our sin and the wrath of God- but we are still awaiting the return of Jesus and the redemption of the universe. Until then, there IS a story unfolding. And we are invited in.

"From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard Him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making His appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God."
2 Corinthians 5:16-21

For the believer in Christ, THIS is where hope, joy, and freedom comes. We are saved. Not only are we saved FROM something, but we are saved TO something- to something so great and so grand that we can't fully describe it. We are invited to be ambassadors; the representatives of our eternal Kingdom in the presence of the King of Kings. We are invited to preach the gospel, to invite others into the same hope we have in salvation, to extend the reconciliation of God. It is through this call and this invitation, that we can walk fully in the truth Jesus shared in John 10- He came to give life and give it abundantly. 

Through Jesus Christ, we can experience the fullness and beauty of marriage. Why? Because it's a depiction of Christ and His pursuit of His bride, the church. 

Through Jesus Christ, we can experience the fullness and beauty of children. Why? Because it's a depiction of the way our Father God loves and cares for His children. 

Through Jesus Christ, we can experience the fullness and beauty of friendship and community. Why? Because it's a depiction of the Trinity and the union the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have.

Through Jesus Christ, we can experience the fullness and beauty of work and labor. Why? Because it's a depiction of God's work of creation and it is good. (work was in the garden BEFORE sin!)

Through Jesus Christ, we can experience the fullness and beauty of life. Why? Because it's a depiction of God's unique design of creation. - Psalm 139.

There's a song by Josh Garrels that has always struck a deep chord in my heart. Listen to this and read the lyrics. "There's so much more to life than we've been told, and it's full of beauty that will unfold..." That beauty unfolding is through the work of Christ. There's nothing more beautiful. It's permeates to the core of our being and ignites a fire that nothing in this world can eliminate. So, that's why we press on. That's why we persevere. That's why we preach Jesus, love others, and wait expectantly for His return. We keep our eyes fixed on our home and the eternal weight of glory that awaits us. We hope in Christ- and it's a hope that will not, ever, put us to shame.

Though you have not seen Him, you love Him. Though you do not now see Him, you believe in Him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
1 Peter 1:8-9

Farther along we'll know all about it 
Farther along we'll understand why 
Cheer up my brothers, live in the sunshine 
We'll understand this, all by and by 

Tempted and tried, I wondered why 
The good man died, the bad man thrives 
And Jesus cries because he loves em' both 
We're all cast-aways in need of ropes 
Hangin' on by the last threads of our hope 
In a house of mirrors full of smoke 
Confusing illusions I've seen 

Where did I go wrong, I sang along 
To every chorus of the song 
That the devil wrote like a piper at the gates 
Leading mice and men down to their fate
But some will courageously escape 
The seductive voice with a heart of faith 
While walkin' that line back home 

There's so much more to life than we've been told 
It's full of beauty that will unfold 
And shine like you struck gold my wayward son 
That deadweight burden weighs a ton 
Go down into the river and let it run 
And wash away all the things you've done 
Forgiveness alright 


Still I get hard pressed on every side 
Between the rock and a compromise 
Like the truth and pack of lies fightin' for my soul 
And I've got no place left go 
Cause I got changed by what I've been shown 
More glory than the world has known 
Keeps me ramblin' on 

Skipping like a calf loosed from its stall 
I'm free to love once and for all 
And even when I fall I'll get back up 
For the joy that overflows my cup 
Heaven filled me with more than enough 
Broke down my levee and my bluff 
Let the flood wash me 

And one day when the sky rolls back on us 
Some rejoice and the others fuss 
Cause every knee must bow and tongue confess 
That the son of god is forever blessed 
His is the kingdom, we're the guests 
So put your voice up to the test 
Sing Lord, come soon 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.

Gossip. Slander.

You read those words and every one of us relates, especially women. We know gossip. We know about words that cut deep. We’ve been gossiped about, we’ve participated in gossip, our names have been slandered, and we’ve done the slandering. We’ve seen the damage of this…yet, more often than not, we do nothing about it.

Merriam Webster defines gossip this way: A: a person who habitually reveals personal or sensational facts about others. B: rumor or report of an intimate nature. Slander is defined as: to defame- to harm the reputation of.
Think how little it takes and how quickly a friendship can be torn down and the bonds of community can be broken- all because of a few “little” words. Our words can either bring life or death to someone’s ears. Disrespect, sarcasm, mean jokes at someone else’s expense, crude and sexual humor, harsh language/profanity, cutting tone of voice, sharing stories that aren’t yours to share, slandering someone else to make yourself look better, laughing at any of these things when someone else does them… The list goes on and on. How many of us fall short? All of us. But it’s not okay. Ever. 

It’s not okay that we say we love and support each other, and then we deny it a minute later because of the way we speak. It’s not okay that we share Jesus with our mouths, and then use the same mouths to utter profanity and gossip. God, in His grace, gave us His divine and breathed Word. We aren’t left alone on this issue, questioning and scratching our heads as to what to do. We are given guidance and truth to push us to holiness. So, bear with me as I dig into some Scripture.

Let’s start with Matthew 12:33-37.

"Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give an account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned." 

In this particular passage, Jesus was speaking to the Pharisees about their sin and heresy of labeling Jesus as a blasphemer. He is telling them that the words that come out of their mouths reveal what’s in their heart. This is true for us. It’s not the things that come out of our mouths that make us evil; it’s the evil in our hearts that brings forth evil words. So, where is your heart? For the person who is continually making sexual jokes, sexual comments, sexual rumors…is there a lust issue? For the person who slanders and makes fun of people, who is always sarcastic and mean, are they bitter, jealous, self-consumed? Is there something deeper in their heart that makes them so angry?

We see in Scripture that Jesus constantly calls us to examine our hearts. Killing someone isn’t the only way to commit murder; that being angry is equal. Sleeping with someone else’s wife isn’t the only way to commit adultery; looking at someone in lust is equal. It goes so much deeper than only the words you say; So, I ask again, where does your heart lie? Based on the words you say, where is your heart before Christ? Based on how you use your speech, how would others say your heart was? Is it in tune with what Jesus calls us to as believers? Are you representing Him? Are you producing fruit in your speech that points other people to Christ?

Check out James 3:4-10.

"Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so!"

Think of all the organs in your body. Is the tongue not one of the smallest ones? Look at the analogies James uses: a forest fire that destroys miles upon miles is started by a little spark. A ship is guided and directed amongst stormy seas by a small little rudder. He uses drastic imagery in this way to show you how devastating the tongue can be. What fruit are you yielding? What are you known for?

Vs. 10 says, “From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, this ought not to be so!”
We cannot keep speaking so boldly about Jesus and negatively using our mouths the way we use them. How incredible is it that Jesus has chosen us to represent Him. How amazing is it that He gave us mouths and voices and speech. We can use our mouths to give life and encouragement to our brothers and sisters around us. We can use them to share the gospel and proclaim the only truth and hope there is. Why would we use them in the opposite way? You each have the power in your speech to encourage and uplift one another when life is hard. Life is hard. Let's stick together in this; let's fight together for Jesus. Let's represent His grace and love and kindness to the world. Let's walk in obedience. Let's love others as He has loved us. Let's represent the body of Christ in a unity and peace and grace and love He calls us to. Run the opposite direction of evil- run to Him.

Read Ephesians 4:29-32.

"Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another as God in Christ forgave you."

The word corrupting literally means “bad/rotten fruit” or “bad/putrid fish”. If you’ve ever smelled rotten fish, you know that it’s absolutely disgusting. We are called to “give grace” in our speech by building others up and encouraging them, not corrupting them through our speech and the words that we say.
My best friend said something to me once that just stuck out to me. She said "the world is going to tear us down already...why would we want to do its job for it?" Why do we want to tear each other down, gossip, spread rumors, speak rudely, accept those who speak rudely, be awful to each other, accept sexual talk...why would we want to do this when its everywhere around us? Shouldn’t we be different?

Proverbs 18:21 says that, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue…”

Has someone ever said something to you that hurt so bad? That made you feel like you wanted to curl up in a little ball and just cry and suffer alone? Think about how powerful words can be. On the flip side, has someone ever spoken so much encouragement and love into you that made you just so joyful and alive? There is great power in your words!

Check out Matthew 5:13-16.

"You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven."

If you profess to know Jesus Christ, He has CHOSEN YOU to represent Him. Are you taking this seriously? Are you living your life as a city set upon a hill, so that His light shines through you to the world? Are you and those you do life with showing the love of Jesus in the way you talk to each other? Can people tell you love Jesus by what comes out of your mouth? Matthew 15:18 says it's that which comes out of your mouth that defiles you. What is coming out of your mouth? Is it edifying and life-giving, or is it condescending and life-sucking? What would people say about the way that you talk and the words that come out of your mouth? If all you had were the things that came out of your mouth to represent Christ, would you be a good representation or a bad one?

I’m going to finish with 1 Corinthians 13:4-8.

We’ve all heard or read this passage, the “love” passage. This passage wasn’t written as a guideline for a marriage love. This was written by Paul to the church of Corinth. He was writing to a body of believers and giving them an example of what biblical love between brothers and sisters look like. Read this prayerfully. Where have you failed in this when it’s applied specifically to the words and action that flow from your heart? Confess, repent, ask forgiveness. Feel the weight of your sin, yet be overwhelmed by the grace of God that “while you were yet sinners, Christ died for you” (Romans 5:8). His atoning works on the cross cleanses and purifies you, from the inside out. Pray He would open your heart to understand His sacrificial work. Pray He would humble you. Pray your response to His grace would be a heart of obedience, a desire to love others in how you speak. Pray He would grant you courage to ask forgiveness to those you have hurt. We are called to unity and peace in the body of Christ. John 13:34-35 says the world knows we are Christ’s by how we love one another. So, let’s love and love well.

"Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant, or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails."